Adults aging ‘with’ and ‘into’ paralysis: Epidemiological analyses of demography and health


Alicia Dixon-Ibarra, Ph.D., M.P.H., Gloria Krahn, Ph.D., M.P.H., Heidi Fredine, M.P.H., Anthony Cahill, Ph.D., Susan Jenkins, Ph.D.

Disability and Health Journal, Volume 9, Issue 4
Published online: June 21, 2016



Survival for many individuals with paralysis is increasing, making this population a larger subset of the aging population (Molton, & Jensen, 2010). Yet little is known about the demographics and health of this population (Freedman, 2014).


This study is one of the first evaluations of the differences in etiology, sociodemographic and health characteristics (i.e., health status, chronic, and secondary and medical conditions) of adults aging with versus into disability.


A cross sectional epidemiological study was performed using secondary data from a nationally representative sample of adults with paralysis. The National Paralysis Survey is a random digit-dial survey of over 70,000 households. Weighted descriptive and regression analyses were conducted.


Eighty percent of those aging with paralysis had disabilities for 40+ years. They showed significantly better self-reported health status, and a trend for more secondary and medical conditions. Those aging into paralysis had more chronic diseases.


Differences are evident between those aging with vs. into paralysis. These findings suggest that differentiating subgroups of older adults with disabilities by onset of disability makes disability and health information more actionable for programs and policies. Additional studies to explore the intersection of aging and disability onset across adulthood could increase our understanding of the dynamics of aging in persons with early and later onset disabilities.